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Broadband Adoption and Not Availability is Key Challenge, Says One Economy

WASHINGTON, July 31 – Although broadband is largely available in low-income communities in the United States, many of the poor do not see a reason to subscribe, the vice president of the non-profit One Economy Corporation said Wednesday.

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By William G. Korver, Reporter, BroadbandCensus.com

WASHINGTON, July 31 – Although broadband is largely available in low-income communities in the United States, many of the poor do not see a reason to subscribe, the vice president of the non-profit One Economy Corporation said Wednesday.

Speaking at a luncheon on Capitol Hill, One Economy Vice President for External Affairs Alec Ross said that the need to improve broadband adoption rates was suggested by a study released this month by the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

For the first time in the history of telecom, adoption rates among the poor fell, said Ross. The Pew study reported that among adults living in households with annual incomes of less than $20,000 annually, the percentage dropped from 28 percent in March 2007 to 25 percent in April/May 2008.

The decline in adoption is likely a result of the declining economy and a culture that causes many to worry about privacy and identity issues online, Ross said.

Ross spoke at a luncheon, “Broadband in Low-income Communities: From Access to Adoption,” co-hosted by One Economy and the Alliance for Public Technology, another non-profit group.

Ross also said that 40 percent of those interviewed by Pew in a telephone survey said that they lacked the interest to purchase broadband, or high-speed internet access, or believed it to be a waste of money.

When asked why they don’t use the Internet, 33 percent of respondants said they were not interested, 12 percent said they didn’t have access, 9 percent said it was too difficult or frustrated, and 7 percent said it was too expensive, according to the Pew study.

Among users of dial-up services that don’t have broadband, price was the most salient variable, according to the Pew study.

Asked “what would it take to get you to switch to broadband,” 35 percent of these dial-up users said that price would have to come down, 19 percent said that nothing would convince them to get broadband, and 14 percent said that broadband would need to become available where they lived, said Pew.

Joy Howell, director of the alliance’s “Broadband Changed My Life” campaign said that the percentage of African Americans with broadband was at 43 percent in April 2008, versus 40 percent in March 2007.

Ross claimed that this “incredibly disturbing data” came during a time of falling broadband prices and accelerated internet speeds. The Pew report said that the price of broadband had decreased by four percent over the last two-and-a-half years, from $36 a month in December 2005 to $34.50 in April 2008.

Ross said that governmental policies to improve broadband adoption rates must be data-driven, not based on guesses. Howell suggested expanding a Massachusetts broadband program.

Austin Bonner, director of communications for One Economy, said the content on One Economy’s public internet channel had helped to change the minds of those who believe the Internet “is a waste of time” or fear going online.

Bonner and Ross said that the public internet channel can accomplish these goals because of its easy-to-read format and availability in multiple languages.

Ross also expressed caution concerning educational programs about broadband. Lawmakers and advocates need to “have some faith in people.” He decried the inherent “paternalism” of many broadband education programs.

Ross said that more Americans need to be told of the benefits broadband will provide to them, particularly in education and the environment.

Although Ross said that the U.S. had done a “pretty good job” in making broadband available to more than 90 percnet of the country, he blasted the Bush administration as “completely [missing in action]” on broadband.

Kenneth Peres, president of the Alliance for Public Technology and research economist for the Communications Workers of America, declared that it was “incredible” that the U.S. was alone among the largest 15 countries in not having a national broadband policy, especially after the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development had ranked the U.S. at 15th in global broadband penetration.

Just as the United States involved the federal, state, and local governments in building canals, railroads, electricity, and highways, the federal government must assist state and local governments and the private sector in deploying broadband and developing its infrastructure, he said.

Peres reminded the audience that over 85 percent of Japanese households have access to high-speed fiber. He did not mention that Japan ranks two slots behind the U.S. in the December 2007 OECD rankings.

A representative of Rep. Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y., said that Towns believes broadband is “essential” and is proud of his work in promoting a health information technology bill. Towns also strongly supports incentives for high speed networks, his representative said.

Howell said more than 1.2 million jobs should be created by the expansion of broadband, one of the fastest growing industries in America.

APT currently receives funding from AT&T, AT&T California, the United States Telecom Association and Verizon, according to its web site. The organization is managed by the consulting firm Issue Dynamics Inc. (now renamed as Amplify Public Affairs), according to the APT web site.

Among the telecommunications companies that support One Economy include AT&T, Comcast, Time Warner and Verizon, according to the One Economy web site.

Report, Documents and Article References by this Article:

Health

Ask Me Anything! Friday with Craig Settles, Community Telehealth Pioneer at 2:30 p.m. ET

Visit Broadband.Money to register for the Ask Me Anything! event on Friday, December 3, 2021, at 2:30 p.m. ET.

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Visit Broadband.Money to register for the Ask Me Anything! event on Friday, December 3, 2021, at 2:30 p.m. ET.

Craig’s tireless work has helped transform the last mile of broadband in the U.S., through his influence among national, state, and corporate decision makers, and his on-the-ground work building community broadband coalitions. Broadband Breakfast Editor and Publisher Drew Clark will interview Craig Settles in this Broadband.Money Ask Me Anything!

Read the Broadband.Money profile of Craig Settles

About Our Distinguished Guest

Saved from a stroke by telehealth, Craig Settles pays it forward by uniting community broadband teams and healthcare stakeholders through telehealth projects that transform healthcare delivery.

Mr. Settles conducts needs analyses with community stakeholders who want broadband networks and/or telehealth to improve economic development, healthcare, education and local government. Mr. Settles’ needs analyses opens up additional opportunities to raise money for networks, as well as increase the financial sustainability of your network. He’s been doing this work since 2006.

A community telehealth champion

Mr. Settles views telehealth as the “Killer App” that can close the digital divide because everyone experiences illness or cares for someone who is ill. Every home that telehealth touches must have good broadband. Telehealth technology and broadband in the home provide avenues for other home-based technology services that can improve quality of life, such as companion distance-learning apps, a home business app, and home entertainment apps.

He authored Fighting the Good Fight for Municipal Wireless in 2005, and since then, Mr. Settles has provided community broadband consulting services. His public-sector client list includes Ottumwa, IA, Riverside, Benicia and Glendale, CA and the State of California. Calix, Ciena and Juniper Networks are among those on his private sector client list. In addition, he has testified for the FCC and on Capital Hill.

Craig around the web

Mr. Settles hosts the radio talk show Gigabit Nation, His in-depth analysis reports are valuable resources for community broadband project teams and stakeholders. Building the Gigabit City, Mr. Settles’ blog, further showcases his expertise in this area.

Follow Mr. Settles on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Mr. Settles is frequently called upon as a municipal broadband expert for journalists at CNN, the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Time Magazine and a host of business, technology and local media outlets. He has spoken at various conferences in the U.S, Europe, South America, Australia and Asia.


About Ask Me Anything! (AMA)

AMA invites broadband industry leaders from all corners to share their knowledge and perspectives with our community.

The format is simple:

  1. A one hour live webinar with our distinguished guest
  2. Interactive questions from attendees in the comments below this post
    • See a question you also wonder about? “Like” it to upvote it
    • Have more questions? Add them as comments to this post.
  3. Our guest will answer as many questions as time permits, in order of upvotes
    • A community moderator will paraphrase our guest’s answers and post as reply
    • Want to weigh in with your perspective? You’re welcome to share your replies!

Please be respectful of our distinguished guest. It’s okay to disagree, but thank you for being kind. Trolls will be banned.

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Broadband's Impact

Julio Fuentes: Access Delayed Was Access Denied to the Poorest Americans

Big Telecom companies caused months and months of delays in the rollout of the Emergency Broadband Benefit.

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The author of this Expert Opinion is Julio Fuentes, president and CEO of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

Remember when millions of students in dense urban areas and less-populated rural areas weren’t dependent on home broadband access so they could attend school?

Remember when we didn’t need telehealth appointments, and broadband access in urban and outlying areas was an issue that could be dealt with another day?

Remember when the capability to work remotely in underserved communities wasn’t the difference between keeping a job and losing it?

Not anymore.

Education. Health care. Employment. The COVID-19 pandemic affected them all, and taking care of a family in every respect required broadband access and technology to get through large stretches of the pandemic.

You’d think the Federal Communications Commission and its then-acting chairwoman would have pulled out all the stops to make sure that this type of service was available to as many people as possible, as soon as possible — especially when there’s a targeted federally funded program for that important purpose.

Alas, by all appearances, some Big Telecom companies threw their weight around and caused months and months of delays, denying this life-changing access to the people who needed it most — at the time they needed it most.

The program in question is the federally funded Emergency Broadband Benefit program. The EBB offered eligible households — often the poorest Americans — a discount of up to $50 per month toward broadband service, and those households can also receive a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop or other computer if they contribute just $10 to the purchase. Huge value and benefits for technology that should no longer be the privilege of only those with resources.

Seems fairly straightforward, right?

It should have been. But FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel slammed on the brakes. Why? It turns out that Big Telecom giants wanted more time to get ready to grab a piece of the action — a lot more time. While the program was ready to go in February, it didn’t actually launch until several months later.

That’s months of unnecessary delay.

But it wasn’t providers who were waiting. It was Americans in underserved and rural areas, desperate for a connection to the world.

Here are some numbers for Rosenworcel to consider:

  • As recently as March, 58% of white elementary students were enrolled for full-time in-person instruction, while only 36% of Black students, 35% of Latino students, and 18% of Asian peers were able to attend school in person.
  • Greater portions of families of color and low-income families reportedly fell out of contact with their children’s schools during the pandemic. In one national survey in spring 2020, nearly 30% of principals from schools serving “large populations of students of color and students from lower-income households” said they had difficulty reaching some of their students and/or families — in contrast to the 14% of principals who said the same in wealthier, predominantly white schools.
  • In fall 2020, only 61% of households with income under $25,000 reported that the internet was “always available” for their children to use for educational purposes; this share was 86% among households with incomes above $75,000.

And all of these numbers cut across other key issues such as health care and maintaining employment.

Access delayed was access denied to the poorest, most isolated Americans during the worst pandemic in generations.

Allowing Big Telecom companies to get their ducks in a row (and soak up as many federal dollars as possible) left poor and rural Americans with no options, for months. Who knows how many children went without school instruction? Or how many illnesses went undiagnosed? Or how many jobs were terminated?

This delay was appalling, and Chairwoman Rosenworcel should have to answer for her actions to the Senate Commerce Committee as it considers her nomination for another term as commissioner. Rather than expedite important help to people who needed it most, she led the agency’s delay — for the benefit of giant providers, not the public.

Hopefully, the committee moves with more dispatch than she did in considering her actual fitness to be FCC chairwoman for another term.

Julio Fuentes is president and CEO of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. This piece is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.

Broadband Breakfast accepts commentary from informed observers of the broadband scene. Please send pieces to commentary@breakfast.media. The views reflected in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.

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Education

Texas High School Students Enter the Fight for Better Connectivity

Students in a Houston-area school district hosted a panel on connecting schools and libraries as part of a national event on bridging the digital divide.

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John Windhausen Jr., founder and executive director of the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition

WASHINGTON, December 1, 2021 – Generation Z students are making their mark at a Houston-area school district by adding broadband access to the list of issues they are actively working on.

The high school students in the Fort Bend Independent School District organized a panel conversation on internet access in education as part of Connected Nation’s national event titled “20 Years of Connecting the Nation,” and were able to host some high-profile guests in the world of telecommunications.

The November 17 panel included John Windhausen Jr., founder and executive director of the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition, Chris Martinez, division director of information technology for the Harris County Public Library, Heather Gate, vice president of digital inclusion for Connected Nation, and Meredith Watassek, director of career and technical education for Fort Bend ISD.

Nine percent of residents in Harris County, where Houston is located, reports that they do not have a connected device at home and 18 percent say they do not have access to an internet connection. These gaps in access are the focus of the panelists’ digital equity efforts.

With Windhausen and Martinez present on the panel, a key point of discussion was the importance of helping libraries to act as anchor institutions – institutions which help enable universal broadband access.

Watassek pointed out that she has been helping oversee distance learning in Fort Bend ISD for six years, starting such a program to enable teachers to teach students in several of the district’s buildings without having to drive to each one, and has seen that with time and learned experience it is possible to work through distance learning logistical issues that school districts around the nation are currently facing.

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